Qurratulain Hyder (1927-2007): Literature Does Not Die

Posted on August 21, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, People, Urdu
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by Raza Rumi

I have been upset the entire day. Perhaps it does not matter in the larger scheme of things. But this is a sad, sad day. Qurratulain Hyder, the literary giant of our times is no more. At a personal level it is not just the death of another literary figure but it is far greater and deeper than that. Ainee inspired generations of Urdu readers and there is not a single Urdu writer of post-independence era who has not been influenced by her.

Ainee had a civilizational consciousness that took us beyond the nation-state identities that we are so familiar with in our everyday lives. And, of course there was romance – the notion of eastern and Indic romance – that touched our lives. As I wrote earlier, that the way I have understood the world and perhaps parts of myself were deeply influenced by Ainee.

And now her death is a blow that this source of inspiration is not there anymore; as it is we are living in barren times where literature is about marketing and packaging and catering to consumers.

Ainee primarily wrote for herself but reached out and made her mark – and in the process she connected with millions of readers. And I am just one of them. My friends and I have talked today and we recounted how she shaped our inner lives.

I have at least avoided a regret – I met her after years of longing. Met her twice at her house in her frail state and enjoyed the hours. The impressions were indelible. Of course, the ambitious self had planned a meeting later this year.

But there will be nobody in that Noida house. That little temple opposite her house will remain and the sound of Azaan from a neighbouring mosque will also heard. But the hearty laughter, quick witted lines and inimitable writings will not be there.

However, as a friend said – writers die, their stories don’t -makes me a little content.

Farewell, Ainee Apa. May God keep you happy wherever you are…

Photo Credits: The black-and-White photo in this post is courtesy of Prashant Panjiar

40 responses to “Qurratulain Hyder (1927-2007): Literature Does Not Die”

  1. Adnan Ahmad says:

    I can’t help but remember a line from the translation of the part of t. s. eliot poem printed right in the beginning of the novel (I am sure it was from Four Quartets).

    Time the destroyer is time the preserver

    waqt jo tabahkun he–qaaim bhi rakhta he

    In a different context, we are seeing all these unheard of names in this discussion who played the role of a villain but what happened to them in the end. Time brought even them under the elephant’s foot I talked about earlier and crushed them. In this day and age it is almost as if someone trashed Mir’s or Ghalib’s poetry and reflected on his own calibre.

    On a much lighter note, I also remember the scene from Mel Brooke’s movie ‘history of teh world’ where he introduces the critic after the first human art work is created.

  2. Raza Rumi says:

    Please also see this article in the Jang by Masood As’ar where he talks of the environment created for her and also brings out Ainee’s eccentricities:


  3. Raza Rumi says:

    MQ: thanks – since the civil servant was an all powerful member of Pak establishment for years, his view reflects the bias clearly. However, the letter was badly edited :(

    Shahran: thanks for the link. I have read this and Mr Aly’s conclusion is pretty tentative as he says himself at the end of the article. Mr Aly and many others of his ilk were a little startled by Ainee’s decision to move back.

    It was not the martial law but the intellectual climate of Pakistan where you had to be in sync with the official history or else you would be an outcast.
    Here is what Q Hyder said in her 1988 foreword to Aag Ka Darya:

    “There is such a well-established chain of rumors and fictional spin stories about this novel that any refutation of them is simply beyond me. Recently, Qudrat-ullah-Shahab

  4. MQ says:

    Here is another take by a senior civil servant and a contemporary of QAHaider on why she left Pakistan:

  5. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    Shahran Asim: Thanks for providing the link. If this account of Jamil-ud-Din Aali is correct then Ms. Haider left for India because of her personal and not for some political reasons as stated here by few. It is a pity that she had to move back to India to claim her fathers insurance money and that too if she once again became Indian citizen.

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